Cisco 6500 Series: Retired Veteran or Re-discovered Super Soldier?

Tried and true isn't a descriptor awarded lightly. It's earned only after emerging battle-hardened from the front lines. It doesn't matter if you're the only survivor of the super-soldier program, or the flagship switch in the armada that is Cisco - history speaks for itself. Let’s take a quick look at the history of Cisco switches.

Cisco 6500 Series Switches: 6509The Cisco 6500 switch was debuted in 1999 at the end of a decade that brought us legends such as Pogs, Street Fighter 2, and the Macarena. Even the popularity of the internet was only beginning to catch on.

We began with the Cisco Supervisor 1 and its 32 GB switch fabric. Next, we graduated to the Cisco Supervisor 2 still at 32 GB but with the ability to go to 256 GB with the switch fabric module. Then we got the Cisco Supervisor 720. The 720 introduced 720 GB switch fabrics, and then eventually the VSS (virtual switching system) which expanded even further to an upwards of 1.4Tbps! Now, Cisco has debuted the Supervisor 2T which grows the upwards limits to 2Tbps, and doubles the per slot bandwidth from 40 GB to 80 GB!

In addition to the newer supervisor engines, the chassis has also evolved. Now with the E series chassis, the Cisco 6500 is capable of supporting the larger wattage power supplies and the newer supervisors and line cards. While it looks the same, these subtle differences help push the platform into the next generation.

What does that mean for the future of the Cisco 6500 platform?

Well with the announcement of new non-blocking 10 GB cards and mention of 40 GB support coming, it means that the Cisco 6500 is here to stay. Some are saying it’s here to stay for another 10 years. Bold words from an already aging platform. However, I’m reminded of the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Cisco 6500 was built around the idea of expandability, and dependability. It has proven itself time and again in both arenas.

So what does this mean for people who purchase used network hardware or are interested in the Cisco 6500?

It means that purchasing a Cisco 6500 is an investment, and a wise one at that.

For people that already have the platform?

They can continue to grow as needed, and as their companies and organizations grow. A recent Network World article mentioned that Cisco says it has 25,000 customers for the Catalyst 6500 and 700,000 chassis installed worldwide. That same article quoted John McCool, senior vice president and general management of Cisco’s core technology group, saying:


“We'd be silly to walk away from that installed base and loyal set of customers."

Knowing that Cisco is only continuing to develop for the 6500 platform is peace of mind that your budget dollars were spent well. In addition, new cards and expansions mean price drops and pre-owned market availability on current cards like the Supervisor 720's and 6700 series line cards in the not too distant future.

Cisco engineers like me are ready and willing to help you talk through your 6500 growth, and the needs and requirements that come along with it. We can help you navigate the sometimes slippery slope of your network hardware upgrades and save you time and money along the way.  We'd be happy to chat more in depth on the topic!

All things considered, the best just keeps getting better. The Cisco 6500 is here to stay and no one should feel bad about having this shield-slinging super-hero anywhere in their network. After all, it takes a veteran to show the new guys the ropes.